Skip to main content

Full text of "A story about a real man"

See other formats


A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                 93
sergeant". Near her Kukushkin came tripping, a little
fellow with an unpleasant, jaundiced face, who was
disliked in the squadron because of his unsociable habits.
He too was smiling and trying to keep in step with Yura's
enormous paces. Meresyev remembered that just before
his flight he had, in a large company, twitted Kukush-
kin for failing to pay him a debt and was convinced that
this vindictive fellow would never forgive him. But now
he was running beside the stretcher, carefully supporting
it and elbowing aside the bystanders to prevent them from
pushing.
Alexei never suspected that he had so many friends.
That's what people are like when they truly reveal them-
selves! He now felt sorry for the "meteorological
sergeant" who seemed afraid of him for some reason; he
felt ashamed of himself in the presence of the M.C.B.
Commander, about whose stinginess he had circulated
so many jokes and anecdotes in the division, and he felt
that he wanted to apologise to Kukushkin and to tell the
boys that he was not such an unpleasant and unsociable
felow after all. Alexei felt that after all the torments
he had gone through he had at last come home to his
own family, where everybody sincerely rejoiced at his
return.
He was carefully carried across the field to the silvery
Red Cross plane standing masked on the edge of a bare
birch wood. The mechanics were already starting its
engine.
'"Comrade Major," said Meresyev suddenly, addressing
himself to the Wing Commander and trying to speak as
loudly and confidently as possible.
The Commander, with the customary quiet, enigmatic
smile, bent over Alexei.
"Comrade Major ... permit me not to fly to Moscow,
but to remain here, with you...."
The Commander pulled off his helmet which prevented
him from hearing.
"I don't want to go to Moscow. I want to remain here,
at the medical battalion...."
The major took off his fur glove, groped for Alexei's
hand under the blanket and, pressing it, said:
"You funny chap! You need real, serious treatment."